It’s been such a woebegone year that one might think the only part of 2020 for which we can be thankful is that its end is nigh. Yet the grim realities of the pandemic and the attendant economic hangover suggest that at least part of ’21 won’t be much better, so perhaps its more important than ever amid our shared gloominess to spare a moment to recognize the things we are thankful for. Here’s my list:
For Bryson DeChambeau, who single-handedly filled the long, dark days of summer with antics sufficient to fuel social media for an age. Blessed be his talent, his success, his work ethic and his stupendous absence of self-awareness. The PGA Tour and its fans are richer for all of the above.
Bryson DeChambeau looks over his putt on the first green with his caddie Tim Tucker during the final round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Winged Foot Golf Club – West. Mandatory Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports
For Brooks Koepka, whose most noteworthy shot during this truncated major season came at the PGA Championship, when he grazed his ex-pal Dustin Johnson in a Saturday night drive-by press conference. He also freely admitted that he wouldn’t share a protein shake with DeChambeau and that he’s not out to make friends on Tour, solidifying his reputation as a straight-shooter unafraid to flavor golf’s vanilla-centric menu.
For Patrick Reed. See above, minus the straight shooting.
For the USGA, the PGA of America and Augusta National Golf Club—three organizations often mocked as antiquated (sometimes fairly), but whose painstakingly meticulous approach to affairs saved three of the four planets around which the sport orbits. Call it karma that each was rewarded with a worthy champion.
For Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour commish, who quickly and publicly reversed himself by canceling the Players Championship in March just hours after saying it would go ahead, then working assiduously to salvage a season that seemed destined to be lost, despite a chorus of naysayers griping that the restart was a wrong move. There may be five families in golf, but Monahan is the primus inter pares, and this year proved it.
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan at the PGA Championship on Aug. 5, 2020, at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
For Cameron Champ and Kirk Triplett, two men of disparate backgrounds who each took high-profile and principled stances in support of the Black Lives Matter cause. They were a noble and necessary reminder that there are thoughtful, diverse voices in the professional ranks, no matter how many of their peers retweet lunacy as gospel on a daily basis.
For Rory McIlroy, who made it explicit that his rejection of the proposed Premier Golf League wasn’t just about an independent contractor preferring to control his own schedule but rather a matter of conscience. “I didn’t really like where the money was coming from.” With that comment, McIlroy chose not to enlist himself in the Saudi government’s effort to use golf to sportswash its wretched human rights record.
For the PGA Tour Champions, the only stage on which Phil Mickelson was able to steal a show in ‘20. Made-for-TV matches aside, the Viagra circuit is Phil’s only plausible path to victory, so here’s hoping they see a lot more of each other in ’21.
For Mike Clayton, the eminence grise of the equipment rollback movement. Amid a debate marked by flim-flam and petty grievances, the Australian architect and former player remains the most eloquent and measured voice making the case to preserve the integrity and relevance of golf’s greatest courses.
For the many Golf Channel employees leaving the network this year as it shifts operations from Florida to Connecticut, and from whom I learned more than they know.
For Brady Riggs, Brad Faxon, Pete Cowen, Denis Pugh, Parker McLachlin, James Ridyard, Paul Azinger, Jim Lusk and the countless other pros who offered some form of swing counsel in ’20. All of them failed me, but it’s the effort that counts.
And finally, for the many correspondents who reach out, even if only to suggest I stick to golf or to make orificial comparisons.
My list is entirely subjective, of course, a thoroughly personal accounting designed to remind myself of one thing: that there’s more for which to be thankful than to regret. In this year, that’s not nothing.